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February 7, 2012


Is Christianity Supposed to be Masculine?

A response to John Piper’s 8 Traits of a Masculine Ministry:

3. A masculine ministry brings out the more rugged aspects of the Christian life and presses them on the conscience of the church with a demeanor that accords with their proportion in Scripture.

This is strange language indeed: “the more rugged aspects of the Christian life”. What about the more tender aspects of the Christian life? What about the more refined aspects? Why are we putting a filter on the whole counsel of God? Do we want a masculine Christianity or do we want Christianity? Surely our aim should be to understand the scriptures as best we can in our cultural context. Is Piper asking me to filter out the parts of scripture which command us to be compassionate, tender, gracious because they might be deemed effeminate? I don’t want to deliberately cut the revelation of God in Christ down so that it echoes my cultural bias or my preference for a certain style of Christianity. Dr Piper is very vocal about his love for the scriptures so I struggle to understand why he would encourage this deliberate distortion of God’s word.

Piper concedes that women could do this, but he claims the theme of Christian warfare and other rugged aspects of biblical theology and life should draw the men of the church to take them up in the spirit of a protective warrior in his family and “tribe,” rather than expecting the women to take on the spirit of a combatant for the sake of the church. This language of protective warrior reminds me of John Eldridge’s book Wild at Heart rather than the scriptures which actually happen to have quite enough examples of rugged and fierce women. Perhaps Piper’s words would have more biblical tenacity if he had said “the spirit of a protective warrior like Deborah, or Jael or Queen Esther?”


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7 comments

Like Krish, I too have been very blessed by much of Piper’s work. As a conservative Anglican, I would take exception to his view ‘of baptism not to mention his views on alcoholic abstinence’ and maybe a few more points coming from a certain ‘brand of Anglicanism. I appreciate the gentile but firm appeal to Scriptural rebuttal Krish makes and have to agree that in this area Piper seems to be contextualizing his exegesis.

[It’s actually a wonderful article on how God loving people can disagree on a topic with respect, but unyielding to their perception of Scripture as the ultimate authority {written with the knowledge that perception could be in error}, dripping in charity; Thanks, Greg, for this link].

[1] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 2-7-2012 at 12:01 PM · [top]

Perhaps Piper’s words would have more biblical tenacity if he had said “the spirit of a protective warrior like Deborah, or Jael or Queen Esther?”

Isn’t the point of Judges chapter 4 that Deborah and Jael coming to the rescue of Knights-In-Distress, isn’t at all normative? 

And Queen Esther .. an example of a protective warrior?  Has the blogger read the book of Esther?

[2] Posted by J Eppinga on 2-7-2012 at 12:14 PM · [top]

yeh…judges chapter 4 is a picture of men abdicating leadership. It’s not an ideal by any stretch.

[3] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 2-7-2012 at 01:08 PM · [top]

You know, the simple answer to the question “Is Christianity Supposed to be Masculine” is “no.”

That’s rather a duh question.

But the question is asked in response to a Piper essay titled “Eight Traits of a Masculine Ministry.”

That’s “Masculine Ministry.”

I’m assuming this is Piper’s list on the nice positive characteristics of men in ordained ministry.

I also am for men-only in ordained leadership although I’ve never wanted to come up with a list of “advantages” to having men in ordained leadership since anybody can come up with a counter-list of the disadvantages, and the point is not “look at all the goodies men in ordained leadership provide” but is rather that Scripture makes clear that men in ordained leadership is the pattern and mandate for the Church.

But unless Piper says somewhere that “Christianity must be masculine” [and maybe he does and I’ve missed it?] I think this essay is more of setting up a straw man and then knocking it down.

Why doesn’t the author simply deal with the issue of whether only men should be in ordained leadership?

[4] Posted by Sarah on 2-7-2012 at 04:13 PM · [top]

I’m assuming this is Piper’s list on the nice positive characteristics of men in ordained ministry.

Hi Sarah,

The author is using Biblical argument against a message based on a life study of +JC Ryle [Found here].

So I’d agree with you in “men-only in ordained leadership,” but Piper not using a Biblical argument or sacerdotal one (being a Reformed Baptist, I suppose he would not use that), instead principles with Biblical footnotes—which could extend to all ministries, not just ordained (though point #7 seems to refute that, maybe confusion because being Anglican there clearer role of ordained and lay ministry in my mind that very different than Piper communicating).

My issues are a tad different than Krish, more “Masculine Ministry” is not a category in Scripture. I do believe Scripture to be clear in regards to WO, but much of Piper’s points seem to be addressing the post-so-called-sexual-revolution confusion of gender rolls, which I think Scripture does have something to say, but frequently I’ve seen in recent American Evangelicalism a tendency to personalize everything as if Jesus was talking directly to 21st Century America, not in a historical context with timeless words (be it dating v courtship or male adolescence behavior of video games and pizza at 25 or whatever) or in this case transporting a late 19th century Anglican bishop from his context to speak to modern issues—I’m sure +JC Ryle had an opinion on WO, but not sure on masculine ministry as Piper is using those terms, I do not think Victoria England had the same issues. It’s not that Piper’s eight points are that objectionable either, but Piper is qualifying each with his pet phrase “masculine ministry.”

Then maybe I’m just grumpy because of all the macho attempts on men’s BBQ posters or when almost guaranteed someone will say “we should call it an advance, for we never retreat,” when talking about a pulling back from the world to worship and study together. I do think there is much gender confusion and we had the “tender warrior” thingie a decade or so ago. Like with issues of dating, I think Scripture can inform but we should not go inventing categories, such as ‘courtship,’ that the Bible does not actually have in it, the same IMO with masculine ministry.

[5] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 2-7-2012 at 06:09 PM · [top]

I too like Piper on many things, but not everything.  Baptism and divorce (he takes a Roman Catholic view of it basically…oddly enough) are two things I know I disagree with him on.

Should ministry…(or Christianity) be masculine?  I think the body should be as masculine as its Head…so yes, I think it should—as Jesus shows us what real masculinity looks like.  We are talking about CHRISTianity after all.  Of course scripture sees the Church as Jesus’ bride, so in another sense Christianity—along with all of Creation, on a cosmological level (a la C. S. Lewis…)is feminine.

However, considering the withering feminization of Christian faith-in-practice—a project reaching back into (especially) the 19th Century and before (just how much wimpy-Jesus-in-artwork can we take?)and accelerating greatly with WO, and…then with the promotion of “the effeminate” to ordination (interesting how that worked), I also think pondering the manly virtues of the leadership of our faith is a legitimate counter measure. 

I can recall as a seven year old boy in a lukewarm church (our family soon switched to a living, warm, gospel-preaching church) being very negatively impressed with the effeminate pastor.  It’s an image of pastors I still struggle with today….  An ideal pastor should be a man’s man, in my opinion, like that rough-hewn, but gentle, Galilean carpenter, our Head.

My only problem with this all is that it seems that worrying about being (or becoming) masculine itself, is just not a very masculine trait…

[6] Posted by banned4Life on 2-8-2012 at 01:29 AM · [top]

If you all would like to see how much Piper’s comments have angered the “other” side, check out this blog - http://rachelheldevans.com/brothers-speak-out-john-piper-masculine.  My two cents worth is that I have not experienced much good, if any, from ordained women in the UMC.  I have been subjected to everything from radical feminist theology to just plain bad theology and socialist politics, and comments like “I suppose their may be some good Republicans, but I have never met any” and “I really don’t remember what he looked like - all old white men look the same to me.”

[7] Posted by Daniel on 2-8-2012 at 09:07 AM · [top]

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